I don't own any of the characters that have been created by JK Rowling. I am not making money, merely a bit of playing around with them. I also do not intend plagiarism in any way, shape or form. I am fully aware that there are about a billion of these stories around and as such, parallels between them can probably not be avoided but I don't mean for them to happen at all.
It smelled like tea and biscuits and old books. Those scents, the favourite scents of Severus Snape, engulfed him, made him sleepy, made him yawn. The man sitting opposite him talked and talked but Severus could not listen. The armchair, while hideously coloured – purple – was very comfortable and there was a peaceful atmosphere. No doubt it had something to do with the smell but Severus did not mind. He had been up during the night, grading and brewing and this relaxation was just what he needed. He rolled his head and pushed his shoulder blades together, revelling in the clicking sounds his vertebrae made.
He leaned his head back against the softly cushioned armchair and closed his eyes for a moment. A moment too long, obviously, since he felt a poke in his side in that moment. He jumped, as he usually did when poked in the side, his one weakness, and opened his eyes again.
"You might want to at least pretend to listen to me, my boy," Albus Dumbledore, twinkling as ever, smiling as ever, said amusedly. But Severus, miffed at the poking, the sly usage of his weakness, only grunted.
"Do I have your attention now? Well, in any case, I was saying that I wonder about the quality of those sherbet lemons. It seems it has dropped in the last two months. Do you think I should write to the company and inquire?"
Severus – not caring less about sherbet lemons (they made his teeth ache, especially the one he had always had trouble with, third from the back, at the bottom, on the left side) – grunted again and took a sip of tea. It was a bit sweet for his taste but it would keep him awake during the incessant babbling of the Headmaster. He had been invited up there, to the Headmaster's private quarters under the pretence of an important issue to discuss. And apparently, the sherbet lemons were said issues.
"And Minerva asks you not to dock quite so many points from Gryffindor. She says it's getting excessive," he continued and Severus knew he had apparently missed the connection again. But really, the pattern of the carpet was more interesting.
He grunted again but remained silent. It was peaceful up here, truly, but it would be even more peaceful if the Headmaster would shut up. He almost wished for Minerva there right now. She always managed to somehow silence him. Either with a marital bantering, or one thing or another about the school. On the other hand, she usually insisted on talking to him, too, and that he didn't feel up to.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and he had apparently not paid attention again. The Headmaster was speaking into his fireplace, then stepped back, and a woman came through the green flames. A small woman, middle aged, her hair greying, spindly legs in tartan slippers and the rest of her form wrapped in a housecoat.
"Severus, you do know Arabella?" he asked gently, then pointed at a seat and the woman sat down, groaning.
"I do now," he replied, only mildly interested.
"This is Arabella Figg, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, Arabella, you know Severus?"
The woman nodded – and groaned again. "I've heard of you, of course," she said. "But this is not why I'm here," she added, staring at him. "And I'm not sure..."
"Severus is trustworthy. You can say anything that you'd say to me in his presence as well," Albus interrupted, his voice having a slight edge to it. An edge he had not heard in a while.
"Harry Potter is being mistreated," she blurted. "I have watched it for a while. I will not stand by any longer. Petunia Dursley is the worst sort of person and her husband is just a fat whale of a man who always shouts at him. And their son. Their son is worst. He Harry-hunts, Dumbledore. He and his cronies set out and chase him through the entire neighbourhood. It's been worse now than it ever was before." She took a deep breath. "Petunia slaps him. Her husband shouts because he's too lazy to smack and their son and his friends hit him. If you don't do anything, I will; and will alert Muggle social services and have him taken away. He never gets enough food, he has to work more than any child should and they make him sleep under the stairs."
Her expression was fierce and the Headmaster had suddenly lost his twinkle. And his own braincells worked hard to process what had just been said. But there was one thought very prominent in his mind.
"The boy lives with Petunia Evans?" he asked, trying to sound normal.
"Her name is Petunia Dursley these days, but yes, she's Lily's sister," the angry woman told him. "A horrible woman."
"You let the boy live with her?" Severus asked, his own anger increasing. "Do you know what kind of person that is? And that he will never learn about anything while living with that woman?" he spat the last word. "He has a prophecy to fulfil. Living with that b...horrible person will either break him or make him detest magic. It might even turn him into a Squib."
The woman glared at him for a moment, then her face softened. "He is right, Dumbledore. She slapped him especially hard last week when he vanished up on the roof of the school during break when that other boy chased him again."
"I have to leave him there," the Headmaster said sadly. "I have no other choice. Only with family, he can have the protection he needs."
"Absolute rubbish!" Severus thundered, suddenly, "I assume you're speaking of Blood Wards. Any decent Wizard can cast wards that are stronger and more secure. And the Dark Lord will never be fully killed when you let this family, this – cow – turn him into a weakling."
"Do you know Petunia Evans?" he bellowed harshly. "Do you think I want to put my life in line because you let a boy, the boy who has it in his power – and only his power – to vanish Him forever – live a miserable existence with a wretched person who hates magic above all? Who hated her sister because she could do magic? Who called her sister a freak?"
The woman, Arabella Figg, nodded viciously, "He is right, Dumbledore. She never even mentions Lily. Whenever I've asked her about her family, she never said anything. Nothing about Lily. Or James. It was only ever her good-for-nothing sister and her drunk husband. Not a kind word about either one of them."
Somehow, Severus had ignored, up until then, that the boy was Harry Potter. The mentioning of Petunia had made it perfectly clear that this was Lily's son. Only Lily's son. But yes, yes, of course. It was Potter's brat. And eventually, Potter's spawn would play a huge role in the downfall of the Dark Lord, and as such, played a major role in his fate.
Still. Nobody, not even his worst enemy, not even James Potter, not even Sirius Black, should be subjected to Petunia Evans and her evilness. Much less Lily's child. He knew Petunia Evans. Petunia Evans was devil's spawn. Even the Dark Lord would eventually break under her. No, he could not allow this. Any family was better. Any damn family.
"Anyone is better than her," he said viciously. "Anyone!"
"I agree with him, Dumbledore," the woman said, just as viciously. "I will contact Muggle social services."
"I won't have the upbringing of the only one who can bring down you-know-who depending on Muggle social services. They do no good. Even I would be a better choice!"
"Would you take care of him?" Dumbledore asked, quite suddenly, the twinkle in his eyes still gone – and a deep frown etched between his brows.
"I would, if, and only if, there is no other way, could be persuaded to find a new family for him, yes," Severus spat.
There was a short knock on the door before the headmaster could reply in any form and without waiting for an answer, Minerva McGonagall stepped in. Wife of Albus Dumbledore and Head of Gryffindor. She nodded in greeting at Severus, then her husband, before she noticed Arabella Figg sitting there.
"Arabella," she cried happily and rushed over to the middle aged woman, pecking both her cheeks. "What brings you here?"
The woman's expression darkened. "I'm here because of Harry Potter," she said, loud and clear.
"Why? What's wrong with him?" Minerva asked, alarmed.
"Petunia Evans! That's what's wrong with him. Why did nobody tell me that he's living with that infernal woman? I thought there were grandparents?" Severus exploded. "Petunia Evans, Minerva. He can't be alright if he's raised by her."
"And he is not raised by her," Arabella Figg fixed Minerva with her eyes. "He is mistreated and I came here to make sure that I will contact social services if Dumbledore does not remove him from there."
"Albus!" Minerva shrieked. "I told you. I haven't told you once, I haven't told you twice, I haven't told you fifty times. I must have told you about a thousand times that those were the worst sort of Muggles. That he can't possibly be a happy boy there the way you claimed he would be."
"Harry Potter is not happy," Arabella Figg agreed viciously.
"Nobody can be happy around Petunia Evans," Severus spat.
"Fine," Dumbledore sighed. "You all know about the wards. And if you're all so insistent and before he ends up in a Muggle orphanage, we'll tighten wards on Hogwarts and bring him here until Severus finds a new family."
"Why me?" he cried indignantly.
"You said you would," Dumbledore argued gently.
"If there was no other way."
"There is no other way. Minerva and I will be strengthening security and Arabella will accompany you. See if you can get the boy. If he does not want to leave, you will not force him. You will first find out how he feels about living there. But gently. You know how easy it is to wreck havoc on a child's mind if you're too forceful with your Legilimency. And no magic other than that. Understood?" Albus Dumbledore said, unusually sternly.
Severus nodded grumblingly. Of course he did not want the boy to grow up in the fangs evil fangs of Tuney but he certainly did not want to take care of him himself. He could not. Not only because it was Potter's child but also because he did not like children. Children were messy and noisy and aggravating. Children cried and screamed for candy and always demanded and wanted and made an absolute spectacle when they did not receive what the demanded and wanted.
He did not want a child. He did not want children. And he did not want to take care of Harry Potter.
"Shall we before he changes his mind again?" Arabella Figg tugged on his arm, shuffling by his side in her weird clothes and he only nodded and with a curt nod towards Minerva and Albus, her looking deadly at her husband, he stepped into the floo, right behind the middle aged woman.
He heard them. They were usually always so dumb and so loud that he could hear them from a mile off and that gave him plenty of time to hide or at least get a little distance between himself and chubby, slow Dudley and his gang. Piers was usually quickest of them all and could have probably caught Harry, even if he ran at full speed but Piers never dared to be quicker than Dudley. Because then, Dudley would begin hating Piers and Piers did not want that. Why Piers did not want that was beyond Harry. Or why anyone wanted to be friends with Dudley was beyond Harry.
Dudley was mean and a bully and a horrible person. And he always got everything he wanted from Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. Just because he was their son and he was only the freaky nephew that sometimes did things he did not mean to do. He did not even know himself how it happened. But sometimes, well, it just did. It scared him just the same, and it startled him. But neither Uncle Vernon, nor Aunt Petunia or Dudley believed him that.
But they didn't believe him anything anyway. When Dudley trampled through the house in dirty shoes, Aunt Petunia did not believe that it hadn't been Harry. Or when Dudley put his greasy fingers all over the glass table, Aunt Petunia did not believe that it hadn't been Harry. When she had just cleaned the table, he got a clip around the ears. But that was never as bad as the fact that even though the fingerprints were clearly Dudleys, since they were so fat compared to his own fingerprints and since he never ate (or got) that much greasy stuff, they did not even see the hard facts. It was always Harry's fault, no matter what. And he hated it. He truly, truly hated it.
It was okay to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs (except when Dudley decided to really stomp on the stairs) and it was okay to do the chores and cook sometimes (because then, Dudley and his friends could not hunt him) but this constant thinking he was lying and constant saying that he was a little freak that did not deserve to be there at all and that they should have brought him to an orphanage, that truly hurt.
Sometimes, or often, Harry wished, someone would come and take him away. Someone who loved him and wanted him. But he had already learned, with his seven years (and his birthday had only been a few days ago and as a gift, he had been given a pair of socks that had thirteen holes in them – he had counted them) that life was not always a fairy tale. And that there was no such thing as a mystery person (probably a tall man that scared everyone but who was kind to Harry and wanted to protect him. Someone who made sure that he wasn't hunted any more and that Dudley could not bully him any more. Someone who would let him have as many books as he wanted and would let him learn things and would not always tell him that he wasn't wanted). Since his parents had died in the car crash, leaving him with a strange looking scar on his forehead as the only reminder, he knew that there was nobody to love him.
Maybe one day, he would find a wife and would have his own children and could love them. That would be magnificent but now was not the time to think about that, now that Dudley was shouting and screaming for him. And egging his friends on. Now was the time to dart behind the bushes and hide underneath them, pressed between the house and the somewhat thorny bushes.
He could just glimpse the street through the thick green leaves and Dudley and Piers, together with two others, Tom and Mark, trotted along there, kicking their shoes against the ground. That wasn't good. If they had to run after him, Dudley was always out of breath and then was rather quickly tired from hitting him. And his other friends, though much fitter than him, would pretend the same and he got off rather lightly. If they only walked along the street and found him, oh Dudley would have a lot of energy left. Not good.
Harry as quietly as he could, curled himself into a tiny, little ball. He did not dare to close his eyes yet. There would be time for that later when they had found him and punched him. He only hoped it wouldn't go on the glasses again. Aunt Petunia had thrown a fit the last time they had hung at a weird angle from his nose and one of the glasses in the glasses had been broken. She had merely shoved some sello-tape into his hands and had snarled at him to fix it and that he would not get new glasses so soon.
But fortunately, it seemed he had thrown them off track, or maybe it was because of Mrs Figg plodding down the streets. Dudley and his friends like Mrs Figg even less than Harry did. And that was, maybe, because Mrs Figg did not think Dudley was cute or sweet or adorable. Mrs Figg did not like Dudley much and she sometimes sent one of her cats after him. Harry did not like Mrs Figg much either. Her house was smelly and she always talked so much about her stupid old cats and he always had to listen.
But there, right next to Mrs Figg, there walked a man. He was tall and broad and looked almost grim. Someone like him would be lovely to have as a kind of Father. Nobody would dare to bully Harry when he walked along with a man like that. Nobody would dare to hit or hunt Harry when they knew that this man took care of Harry.
Maybe it was Mrs Figg's son, Harry thought, but they did not look alike at all. The man had a crooked, long nose and thin lips and wore a black cape. Something like Batman. Oh, he thought, it would be really lovely to have a Father like this. Or an Uncle. Maybe that was enough.
And it was really strange because Mrs Figg and the tall man who wore a cape like Batman went straight to Number 4 Privet Drive. Walked very closely past Harry. So close that Harry could see the man's shoes and Mrs Figg's slippers. He had big feet. And nice shoes. Polished. Harry wondered, briefly, what kind of stuff that man put on his shoes since they were much shinier than any of the ones he had ever cleaned. Not that he had to do that often since it was never right in Aunt Petunia's eyes.
He could only wonder briefly about it because, well, Aunt Petunia shrieked, suddenly. Shrieked a strange word. Something like Sevwus Snake. Or Snape. Snaipe. Sevrus? Severus? Snape? Something like that anyway and Harry tried not to jump there in his hiding place between the house and the thorny bushes but he couldn't help it. The shriek was so loud and so strange and almost as if someone was strangling her and she was shrieking with all the air that was left in her (and that was a lot, as Harry could attest from being yelled at and shrieked at by her on a regular basis), and it frightened him for a moment.
"Harry?" she shrieked then. "Harry Potter!" then, a moment later, "Dudders?"
Aunt Petunia never shouted for them. She disliked making a spectacle of herself in front of the neighbours, so her shouting for them was truly strange and for three or four or five seconds, Harry was unsure whether to come out of his hiding place at all. Whether it was safe for him. But there was always Mrs Figg. She was dotty and she was a crazy cat-lady but she never harmed him. And she always fed him. Even if it was strange food and so, after those three or four or five seconds of hesitation, he scrambled up, his knees hurting on the pebbles on the ground and stood, a heartbeat later, in front of his aunt who looked very pale. Almost a sort of greyish-green in the face.
And there, first with his back towards Harry, then slowly turning around, stood the tall man in the cape. Harry blinked. He had the darkest eyes he had ever seen. They were completely, pitch black and they held his own eyes. Unblinking, while Harry compensated for this with blinking too much, too often.
"He will not stay here," the man said after a moment of only looking in his eyes and then turning towards Aunt Petunia again. "Tuney," he said weirdly. Like he truly hated her.
"Harry," she shrieked again. "Get your things."
He did not understand. He did not understand at all. Where was he supposed to go? What things was he supposed to get? The old blanket? Or his school books? Or the few clothes?
"I don't...what should I get, Aunt Petunia?" he asked slowly, hesitatingly.
"Everything," Mrs Figg said with the kindest smile he had ever seen on her. "You're going with Professor Snape to your new home."
"That we shall see about," the tall man suddenly said and his voice was brilliant. Everyone would be afraid of a voice like that. It was deep, it was rumbling, it was threatening, but sounded so silky. As if it could slip through your fingers and sting you at the same time. "But Mr Potter, you will come with me for the time being."
"Really?" Harry asked before he could stop himself. The man was taking him away? Truly? Really? The man in the cape like Batman, the tall man everyone would be afraid to bully, with the dangerous silky voice would take him? Oh, Harry was not scared. With someone like him, someone like this 'fesser Snape, nobody would Harry-hunt again. And something in that 'fesser Snape's eyes made Harry know that he had nothing to fear for himself.
Someone had come for him.